Reset Your Digital Self

You know the flustered feeling that all your tech devices and social media services can bring? Turns out, the overwhelming mental clutter can be relieved. I’m not talking about a radical shift like Digital Minimalism, although that would help. It can be simple. In this case, I’m referring to an informative post with a few ideas for a Digital Reset.


Click over to the blog of Anil Dash and check out the list of steps he takes to regain control over his tech life. It’s straightforward and down-to-earth. I like the practical tidbits he shares.

Two of his key principles I especially want to echo here.

Fear Of Missing Out

First, if you decide to step away from social media, FOMO is not as bad as you think. The acute feeling of denial – that fear of not knowing what the latest cool meme is – subsides quickly, being replaced by tranquil relief from the onslaught of info overload.

Deliberate Data

The second principle is about all that info. It’s good to have only intentional info.

For me, the best way to have this is to not have any news feeds! So avoiding social media, I like to intentionally go to websites that I know and trust for certain info. I even use a DuckDuckGo search field to find new info – on purpose!

All it takes is a little clicking and typing and swiping – slightly more effort than mindlessly doom-scrolling Twitter or Facebook.

Addressing Algorithms

If or when I do interact with social media accounts, I like Anil’s idea of resetting the algorithms that fill the feed with stuff. Maybe if I un-pause my Twitter usage, I will likewise unfollow everyone, or at least do a massive purge and slowly rebuild the feed content.

This past week, I unfriended 76 people’s accounts on Facebook. I’m sure my newsfeed will look different now, but I rarely visit Facebook anymore. Shrug.

There are other ways to do a digital reset beyond social media. If it sounds like a good idea to you, go read Anil’s post. I think you’ll find it helpful.


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My Latest Social Media Distancing

Okay, here’s what’s up. I’m pausing my social media usage. Why? Lately, Twitter and Facebook have been negative or harmful. I’ve felt the adverse effects on myself, and I’ve seen it happen to others. Again, I’m re-thinking that social media’s affect on society is detrimental. It’s also unnecessary.


Social Media Moratorium

I posted recently that I won’t, at this time, delete my Facebook account. That’s not changed. So far, I’ve done a few things and am considering others:

  • Logged out of my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Deleted the Facebook and Twitter bookmarks from my laptop.
  • Deleted the Twitter webapp from my iPhone. (I already deleted the Facebook and Messenger apps and I don’t use Instagram.)
  • Maybe remove the Twitter widget from my blog.
  • Maybe stop my blog cross-posts from WordPress to Twitter.

Rather than Delete or Deactivate any of my social accounts now, I’m going dormant by removing my quick easy access to them and ceasing most activity with them, at least for a season.


What’s buggin’ me now about Facebook and Twitter? Why do I feel like it’s time to cease and desist, “deplatforming” myself? Well, as you may have noticed, it’s all the political stuff and bad news.

Also, I’m reminded of the extant problems with social media in general, laid out concisely in Glenn Reynolds’ short book, The Social Media Upheaval. I think it’s worth reading again.

I’ll feel some acute FOMO, but it’ll be short lived. When news is so negative online, I choose to distance from it and live more positively with hope offline.

That said, I’m still gonna surf the web! There are many great websites with their own comment sections and sub-communities. And I like sites that are niche-topic-social-sites. On those, people only post about the subject that the site is all about; basically, you can geek-out there! Three examples:

  • Flickr – a social-like site about photos.
  • Goodreads – a social-like site about books and reading.
  • Grouvee – a social-like site about video gaming.

Of course, I’ll also continue my blog. I can geek out on whatever, with a focus on cool tech and fun gaming. And I’ll engage more in the WordPress Reader with other active bloggers.

Before Social Media, there was the Blogosphere!

I still use email and texting and instant messaging with my closest friends and family. So why do we need social media…? Actually, we don’t!

So there it is. Two weeks into 2021, and I already need to step away from the social feeds.

I guess that’s progress.


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Hatching Twitter Reviewed

Ah, Twitter. A cultural centerpiece for controversial “conversation.” Or a minuscule micro-blog masquerading as major social-media. Whichever. Don’t “@” me. #justsayin

But really, Twitter is something. You weigh its intrinsic pros and cons, you evaluate how it affects you personally, you see its impact on society, and you decide to use it or you don’t.

After reading The Social Media Upheaval, I felt like deleting Twitter! Then I read the book on how it started, Hatching Twitter, and felt like joining the conversation! #feelings #lovehate

No matter how I feel or think about Twitter, I can tell you that I loved reading its origin story! #goodread

Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you’re intrigued by how something so big started off so small, discovering behind-the-scene details, then you’ll no doubt enjoy Hatching Twitter, written by Nick Bilton. Simply put, it’s the nitty gritty of the circumstances that gave birth and growth to the online grapevine where anyone can say what kind of donut they’re eating or share breaking news of global importance. #whatever

While Twitter is borne of nerdy internet wizardry, this book is less about technology and much more about people and their relationships. And the resulting drama in Twitter’s formative years is like some grand Shakespearean legend. #gripping

You’ll read about humanity’s greatest traits: use, abuse, trust, betrayal, back-stabbing, coveting, greed, manipulation, generosity, talent, creativity, loneliness, friendship, ambition, serendipity, hustle, careers, unemployment, stress, and also stress, and then some more stress. #life

The writing is straight-forward, the pacing is fast, and the facts are eye-opening.


Okay, so this book was easy for me to get into because it begins with one of the founders of Twitter, Ev Williams. It starts when he helped create a popular web service before social networking was even a thing, Blogger. And I happen to really like blogging, so, you know… #blogging

One thing that stands out about Ev Williams is his idealism (e.g. #freespeech), which inspires his noble ventures. The problem is that ideals are corrupted by competing realities. This is…less than ideal…but it sure does make for some good drama!

Another noteworthy item about Hatching Twitter is the classic truth that success in life is often based not just on what you know but who you know. It’s one thing to be a coder; that will get you into Silicon Valley. But to get into one of the tech companies, especially a start-up, it helps to rub elbows with the elite tech-savvy.

Social-networking online, after all, begins with networking offline.

But what makes the creation of Twitter so dramatic is the fact that the nerds are more than professional co-workers, they’re friends. Much more is on the line.

The historical narrative account in Hatching Twitter overflows with tech details and little stories that are surprising and remarkable, like when Snoop Dogg got Twitter employees to smoke weed during work hours in the office. #forreal

Despite the chaotic nature of Twitter’s story, Nick Bilton laid out all the parts neatly and then wrapped up the book with nice closure of all the founders’ lives along with some life lessons learned.

The attraction of this story is a feeling of connection to the people as you are swept up in their drama, turmoil, resolve, success, and failures. You share all the same feelings, but theirs are amplified because of their elevated status in the public sphere. So you are drawn into a book that’s hard to put down. #unputdownable

I highly recommend this book and gave it a 5-star rating on goodreads!


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Social Media Upheaval

Like many, you’re probably weary of Facebook and Twitter. They’ve taken their toll on society. I know I’ve felt it. Their cultural influence is more bad than good; they need transformation. So I was stoked to find a concise booklet on the subject that resonated with me. After reading the first chapter, I felt like deleting Twitter!

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a blogger, my favorite parts of The Social Media Upheaval by Glenn Reynolds are at the beginning where the author contrasts early internet blogging with modern social media. He makes great points about their differences to show how blogging is a better form of digital communication. Pumps fists!

Along this line, Reynolds also contrasts social media with broadcast TV and radio to explain the problem with info transmission platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It’s because of the added interaction.

This non-fiction booklet is more like a really long blog post. You can read it in one sitting, take notes, and end up with a good idea of how social media should be transformed. And if you’re not already convinced that social media has caused upheaval or needs to be upheaved itself, you will be.

To that end, if you know someone who is unaware of the downsides of social media, this book might be worth handing to them. Maybe they’ve sensed a problem but can’t quite put their finger on it. This book shines the spotlight as needed.

The first part of the book focuses on the fundamental weaknesses of social media, that it’s:

  • Too Fast
  • Too Incomplete
  • Too Emotional
  • Too Untrustworthy

The second part of the book discusses the way to transform social media: Regulation. There are five types with pros and cons explained:

  1. End online anonymity
  2. Remove section 230 immunity
  3. Increase user scrutiny
  4. Increase content scrutiny
  5. Algorithmic transparency

But these types of regulation are content or speech regulation, which overall do not work well enough. 

So in the third part of the book, the author proposes the only type of regulation that will work: Anti-Trust.

The arguments are straightforward and easy to understand. The author makes as clear a case I’ve heard. I’m convinced that policing speech on social media is a bad idea and that policing whole platforms by breaking them up into smaller ones is best. 

I also agree with the author that social media can be safely ignored otherwise. We don’t need Facebook or Twitter to exist. The internet works fine without them, and society can too. Dismantling cancerous social media monoliths into small benign parts makes sense.

With increasing awareness of social media upheaval, in both the general public and mass media, and with recent gestures towards antitrust regulation in the federal government, I am hopeful that social media transformation will begin soon. It might start today!

Books like this one by Reynolds add fuel to the fire for social media reform. If you’re aware of other similar books, please let me know!

Goodreads rating: 5-stars.


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Three Awesome Anti Social Media Things

I just wanna share a few things about blogging and social media. Because it’s a thing I like to do. Like drinking Dunkin’ Donuts I guess. It gets me buzzin’!


My last post was a 3-part series about transforming social media, so this topic has been at the forefront of my mind. Is that the frontal lobe place? Wherever. It’s in there, and the caffeine has access to it, ‘nuff said.

So with that, I want to share three other perspectives about social media. These three basically underscore my original impetus for writing that 3-part series: social media should just end.

One

The first article that you should read (after you finish mine, of course) is called Bring Back Web 1.0.

It is awesome.

The writing is very…inviting. I wanted to cozy up and listen to more. I almost skipped it; sure glad I didn’t. Read: don’t skip it. It may appeal to older folks like me due to nostalgia. But read it nonetheless and educate yourself a bit. (Then go watch “You’ve Got Mail” starring Tom Hanks.)

Two

The second article is by author and blogger, Cheri Baker, who resides in Seattle (far different climate than my West Texas flavor). I somehow discovered her post last year, Can we make the internet fun again? The answer is…I’ll let you go read her post to find out!

Cheri’s article did that thing to me where your mind tingles like a struck tuning fork. (Sorry, my simile powers are feeling weak at the moment, like most moments.)

Three

And now the third article, which I found via Cheri’s blog post (see, there’s that wonderful link-a-doodle thing again). It’s written in the New York Post by none other than Cal Newport, one of my internet idols. He’s a computer tech nerd-geek, like me, who never had a social media account, unlike me.

You see, I’m trying out micro.blog and have looked into the IndieWeb a lot. I like to think I’m tech savvy, but even some of that stuff intimidates me. But anyways, Cal in his article, Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?, superbly lays out his thoughts on the matter.

The answer, this time I’ll say, is a qualified “Yes.” The IndyWeb can save social media, but not at the large scale of current social media. It’s smaller, more niche, and that is a strength if you ask me.

Newport says,

“Despite its advantages, however, I suspect that the IndieWeb will not succeed in replacing existing social-media platforms at their current scale.”

On top of that, more importantly, Cal says that most people by this point, wary of social media in general, just won’t be interested in any other new form of it. They will move on. Some already have!

Cal argues,

“It may be, too, that people who are uneasy about social media aren’t looking for a better version of it but are instead ready to permanently reduce the role that smartphone screens play in their lives.”

That’s good! This is what I hope for and what I think is happening. People feel disenchanted by the big social networks. And rather than trying a new or different one, they likely won’t care to try at all. Who would blame them?

In my 3 part article, although I had set out to say social media should be eradicated, I ended up thinking it was unlikely that people would abandon social media. We’re all too addicted. It’s too sticky.

So I reasoned that since we’re likely stuck with social media, then it must be transformed into a far better version than what’s current. The IndyWeb-principled micro.blog and the like are potential alternatives.

But as Cal Newport wrote in the New Yorker, maybe people really are so disillusioned with social media that they’re willing to wean off their dopamine addiction. That means everyone can still surf the underlying open web outside the social media silos.


Just Say No To Drugs

Let’s take this back to blogs, because I’m still enchanted with them. Blogging, web 1.0, is still around. And like the linked article states, blogs only die off as much as bloggers allow themselves to get sucked into the pithy drivel of social media. I’m guilty of that!

I started to refocus on my blogging. I’ve socialmediadistanced. And now I’m about to do a hard thing. You see, I deleted the Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp apps from my phone. And I’ve even deleted those services entirely before. 

But the one I’ve always held onto is Twitter. So to go with my 30 day trial break-time from social media, I am now deleting the Twitter app from my phone! My daily dose of dopamine and snark is about to come to a screeching halt! I’m skeered. 😐

Wish me luck.


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